Sunday, December 30, 2012

intentional living in the new year: 13 in '13

i am not big on new years resolutions, but since graduating college i often make goals for myself at the start of every year.  i often don't achieve these goals completely (this is hard for me to admit as i am an achiever!) but i do feel like its good to strive for something higher so that i am pushing myself and growing.  overall, setting goals helps me to accomplish things i otherwise wouldn't.

this year i have decided to focus my goals on various life skills.  i have settled on 13 skills (one for each month and an overall goal to do during the year) for 2013.  i assigned each goal to a month of the year and even wrote it all in my calendar (that kind of thing helps me out a lot).  here is the list if you are interested.

january: learn how to bake sourdough bread.  now you may be asking, "didn't you win a writing contest about sourdough bread?".  why yes i did actually.  but almost everything i wrote about in the article related to sourdough in general, and not just bread baking.  i make lots of sourdough baked goods with success: cinnamon rolls, crackers, english muffins and pizza crust to name just a few.  but i have only attempted actual bread a few times, and with little success (meaning, i have baked several loaves of sourdough bricks).  so in january i want to bake and bake and bake until i find a great recipe i am comfortable with, and perfect every aspect of bread baking such as the rise time, kneading, texture, etc.
'Sourdough bread' photo (c) 2012, Jarkko Laine - license:

i think i will start with rye bread or spelt bread, as these are low in gluten and see if esther can tolerate them.

february: cheese making. i already know how to make (and regularly do make) kefir (and kefir cheese), yogurt (and yogurt cheese) and cottage cheese.  but i want to venture into real cheese making.  so, my goal for february is to make homemade cheese.  i plan to start with mozzarella, as i have heard that is one of the easiest to make (i think it can be done in under 30 minutes?).  after that i am thinking about feta and maybe cheddar.  we'll see.

march: self-defense.  i took a self-defense class one quarter during college.  not only do i forget most of it, but it wasn't really that hard-core of a self-defense, only very basic.

the last time we had to take CPR for our foster certification, we took it from a retired fire cheif who did an excellent job of teaching.  he also mentioned that he does a self-defense class, so i'm hoping to take his class.

april: plant a new crop (squash).  i already garden, but i want to branch out to some new crops.  i have heard squash produces like crazy, so i want to try it out.

may: sewing clothes. i enjoy sewing but haven't ever attempted clothes (these sound scary and difficult!).  thus far i have stuck with simple projects with lots of straight lines such as bibs, baby books,  and repairing holes in clothes.

i will start out with making a couple pillowcase dresses for esther, and a skirt for myself  (simple.  straight lines :) ).

june: learn how to start a fire.  hopefully we'll plan a camping trip some time in june to make this happen.  if i'm adventurous enough i want to learn to start a fire with AND without matches.

july: roast coffee beans.  apparently green coffee beans are cheaper and store longer than roasted ones.    i got the inspiration from root simple.

august: research radiation exposure and buy potassium iodide.  we live right outside of los angeles, and not too far from a nuclear plant.  the chance of some kind of attack or disaster happening is probably slim, but i would rather research it and be prepared now than regret it later.

september: learn how to shoot a gun.  i have a friend who is an olympic pistol shooter.  during college, she offered to teach me how to shoot.  i now regret not taking her up on the offer.  maybe she will teach me if i visit her at the olympic training center? (i really think she would, she is sweet like that).  if i don't make it out to CO, i'll have to find someone else.  either way, i want to learn how to shoot.  one day, i will learn to hunt.  but that will be in the future.  first step is learning to shoot :)

october: dehydrate things (or plant broccoli).  if we are able to buy a dehydrator by then, i hope to preserve our harvest by dehydrating it.  i would love to dehydrate everything from tomatoes, apples, bananas, herbs and zucchini to eggs, yogurt and beef (jerkey).

if we don't have a dehydrator by october, i'll plant another new crop: broccoli.

november: research infant survival and write another post for survival blog.  my last post won third (which is what i was hoping for).  this time i plan to write about infant survival, and hope to get second or first (so that i don't get the same prizes).  i'll even take honorable mention as long as i win something :)

december: candy making. it might sound weird to label candy making as a life/survival skill, but its on my list of things to learn for two reasons: first of all, so that i can make healthier candy for my family to eat (though i but a priority on nutrient dense foods, i think treats are also important, and making them homemade makes them at least a bit more nutritious than store bought!).  secondly: in the (unlikely but possible) event of something like a major economic collapse, i think that people will still want to buy candy, but wont be able to get the factory made stuff any more.  i think candy is something people would be willing to pay a premium for, so it would be a good skill to have.
'Candied Walnuts - Making Candied Walnuts - Robert Lew, Holmesglen TAFE' photo (c) 2008, Alpha - license:

bonus: read a book about survival. sometime during the year (or it might take the whole year since i have much less time to read with babies!).  haven't decided which book.  any suggestions?

want to live intentionally this new year?  here is a great list of questions to help you reflect on this past year and think about ways to grow this upcoming year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

update on baby girl

i have been meaning to write an update on what is happening with baby girl for a while, so here goes.
'TOY LUCINAO!' photo (c) 2007, JORGE RAVINES - license:
this isn't a pic of baby girl, but similar to what she looks like so that you have a visual :)

first of all, some may be wondering (and a few have asked) whatever happened to the whole issue with giving her breastmilk. very long story short, we got permission a week or two after i wrote that post, for which i am very thankful.  a couple times it was threatened to rescind the permission but that hasn't happened, so she continues to get the best milk.

things are moving towards reunification with her mom.  though we strongly want to adopt, in this situation we are happy and hopeful for the reunification.  in early december there was a court date in which it was supposed to happen, but the judge didn't rule for it.  the next hearing is in early february.  we'll see what happens then (i would say reunification is likely but nothing surprises me in the foster care system).

she has always been fussy but the past few weeks its has really escalated.  we haven't figured out why (could be personality, could be related to the reasons she is in foster care, could be lots of other random things).  there isn't one thing that helps with fussiness so we go through an endless cycle of trying different things to make her happy.  this has been hard. not only is it really difficult to listen to her crying (especially when you don't know why its happening) but its made it hard to get anything else done while she's awake... hence the endless piles of dishes in our house and eternal mess and clutter that i have been unable to cut through for the past few weeks.

sometimes i wonder if its a waste of time to try to soothe/comfort her fussiness since it sometimes (often?) doesn't even work.  sometimes i am tempted to be bitter about spending hours soothing someone else's baby (especially when the cause of that fussiness might be related to someone else's bad decisions).  one thing that has helped me to be more sacrificial was a sermon i listened to recently.  in it doug wilson mentioned that any gift given in the right way is a gift given to jesus (matthew 25).  it helps to remember that rocking her, patting her bottom, shushing her and other soothing actions are all gifts given to jesus, and not just to baby girl.

as she is about 3.5 months old now, she is starting to have a bit more personality.  when she isn't fussy she has an array of cute noises and coos, and i can even get her to laugh from time to time.  she is starting to reach out for toys and roll over and all those other normal 3 month old things.  its especially fun for me to see her interact a bit with esther (from her end its mostly just looking at esther, esther's end of things ranges from fingers in baby's mouth to patting her on the back when she is crying).

so thats about it.  the day to day is just normal motherhood, until you have to drive to and monitor a
visit or wonder if your plans in february should include one or two babies or talk to yet another social worker... and at those times the best thing i have found is to keep in mind the why behind our sacrifices.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

the joy and discipline of sermon listening

"Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." luke 12:48

as christians living in the the developed world in the 21st century, there is no denying that we have been given generous resources by God.  as always, we can uses these resources for good or for ill, but either way we will have to give an account one day for how we used it all.  one of the resources we have today is access to a prolific number of sermons, easily obtained through the internet.

listening to sermons throughout the week is one of my favorite spiritual disciplines (which is also a joy).
'Forgiveness Feeding From Afar' photo (c) 2006, Tim Samoff - license:

anyone can incorporate sermon listening into their day: while commuting, while working out or while taking a walk.  but i find that sermon listening is even easier (and arguably more important) for stay at home moms to fit into their day.

the opportunities for a stay at home mom to fit in sermon listening into her day are endless: while doing dishes, while folding laundry, while rocking fussy babies, while nursing babies, while resting when little ones are napping.  SAHM's have many activities that keep the hands busy while the brain is free to think about deeper things.

sermon listening is also important for SAHM's to help stay focused on jesus throughout the day.  the notable dr. martin lloyd-jones once said that mothers of young children are the only ones who have a legitimate reason to not be reading their bible regularly (not even busy medical students have this excuse he said, and he would know since he was a doctor!).  in my experience i have found this to be true. since starting to walk with jesus in college, i have never struggled with daily bible reading except for times we had multiple young children (this wasn't an issue when we only had esther).  however, let me make sure to say that moms should still be sacrificing to make time for the bible even when they have littles, it just might not be as consistent.  right now with a (very fussy) 3 month old and a 14 month old, i still find pockets of time several days each week to devote to bible reading and prayer.  even when we had the four foster kids i was able to wake up early and get a few minutes of bible reading done before the kids woke up some days.

i call sermon listening a discipline and a joy.  it is a discipline, because it would be easier to let your brain rest and not think about deeper things.  it would often be easier for me to listen to NPR, music or just my own musing thoughts instead of a sermon (and indeed there are many times that these things are better than a sermon for what i need at the moment).  but it is a disciple to choose to think in the midst of our culture of endless entertainment opportunities.

but it is undoubtedly also a joy.  my heart has been refreshed by a good sermon more times than i can count.  various sermons have spurred me on towards deeper love for the gospel, biblical womanhood, joy, satisfaction in God and love for adoption among other things.

so, where to start?  there are numerous sites where good sermons can be found.  some sites that i frequent are:

canon wired (doug wilson)

desiring God (john piper)

mars hill church (mark driscoll)

together 4 the gospel (a biennial pastors conference that i enjoy)

the gospel coalition (also a conference with lots of other resources on the site)

if you want a more specific suggestion on where to start, here are some of my all time favorite sermons, most of which i have listened to multiple times:

a theology of christmas gifts by doug wilson (this is good to listen to any time of the year, not just during the christmas season)

an evening of eschatology (a roundtable discussion of the 3 major views of the millennium from a desiring God conference)

under authority like christ (a great teaching on biblical womanhood by mark driscoll)

are you humble enough to be carefree? by john piper (this one is pretty thick, i find it helpful to read the text while listening to the sermon)

prayer as a way of walking in love by francis chan (you will be encouraged and humbled by this account of francis chan's personal prayer life)

what are some of your favorite sermons?  when during the day do you enjoy listening to sermons?

Friday, December 7, 2012

counter-cultural ways to live out your femininity

in a gender-flattening culture such as ours, one of the ways to glorify and testify to the real and living God is to deeply live out our gender in a biblical way.  even when our culture does admit to some distinction between the genders, these definitions are a far cry from the ways that God created our gender to be lived out.

here are some practical ideas of counter-cultural ways to live out your femininity.  it will offend some.  it way be seen as politically incorrect.  but it points to and honors the one who created you to be uniquely female.

not freaking out about baby fat.  i do believe it is important and good to have a nice appearance to honor and show love to your husband. but God created our bodies to be used and not preserved.  if you die at an old age and your body is not worn out and used up, you may not have been using it to pour out service to others.  the normal wear and tear associated with child-bearing (including breast feeding) is a good thing.  so, yes, work out and eat healthfully.  dress nicely when you go out on a date with your husband.  but reject our culture's obsession with looking the same as you did pre-baby.  in fact, don't even talk about it.  its not realistic, and its not honoring to God.

extended breast feeding.  our culture tells women to reject their God-given ability to breast feed in exchange for the "convenience" of formula.  because that way, dad can feed the baby too! (remember what i said about our culture flattening gender differences?).  fortunately, some are starting to recognize the beautiful ways that God created breast milk to be the superior nutritional source for babies.  however, there are definite limits our culture sets on this.  it seen as weird to breast feed past the time baby has teeth, or up to a year old at most.  however, the immune boosting properties of breast milk are actually more important the second year of a child's life than the first (as they are more mobile and exposed to more germs).  and the majority of the world today (and the vast majority of mothers in the history of the world) have breastfed until 2+ years.  again, our culture emphasizes the inconvenience of breast feeding to a mother.  but she cannot frequently escape her child for long periods when she is breast feeding!  better wean as soon as possible!  in extended breast feeding we can embrace the God-given role of motherhood and reject our culture's call to escape baby and have our "own life" apart from baby (and toddler).

be a stay at home mom.  and LOVE doing it.  the #1 response i get when people see me in public (these days with two babies, previously with four kiddos) is "WOW, you must have your hands full!" (often in a critical tone...).  my response is always "yes, full of blessings!" (which is often returned with a blank look or a glare, but i digress...).  our society teaches that you must live a significant life, and their definition of significance involves career and a lot of time away from your own kids (ironically, if your career involves teaching or helping other people's kids, it is seen as a noble career.  but not if it involves your own kids!).

embracing the call to full time motherhood is certainly counter cultural.  but to go against culture even more, LOVE your job and don't complain about it.  moms are expected to complain about motherhood (after all, motherhood and childbearing were certainly touched by the fall.) but we honor God when we enjoy the work he has cut out for us.

manage your household.  do most of the chores, and do them without complaining.  despite our society's attempts to flatten gender roles, studies show that women still do the majority of household chores, even when they work full time (a result of a serious epidemic of the rejection of real manhood).  if you embrace your role as a household manager, you will likely be doing most of the chores (though hopefully not while working full time).  love this. embrace it.  don't use it as an opportunity for bitterness or complaining.  reject the common trend in our society for women to complain about housework.  i can't put it better than this:

"work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, as the Master you are serving is Christ" colossians 3:23-24

Thursday, December 6, 2012

another story of waiting... and a very specific answer to prayer

speaking of waiting, i want to share another story of God's blessing that involved a bit of waiting on our part.

it all started a few years ago when i was researching high quality water filters.  not only do i want to make sure as much of the chemicals and yuck as possible are out of our drinking water, but i would love to have the peace of mind to know that if there were some disaster in so cal (like a major earthquake... a pretty realistic possibility) that we would have access to safe drinking water.

in comes the berkey water filter:  the seeming answer to my quest. the only problem:  it costs about $300.  (don't you hate how expensive it is to eat healthfully?)  since then i have waited until we had an "extra" $300 around to buy one, which hasn't happened.

and then a few months ago, i started reading a blog. every day they post an article written by a different person, entries for their bi-monthly writing contest.  and reading further i noticed that part of their third prize offering for the writing contest was that exact water filter i have been wanting!  after a little bit of thinking, i realized i have expertise in an area that had been barely written about on the blog thus far: sourdough bread baking.

i got right to writing.  life being what it is with two babies, it took me about a month to write something worth submitting (and a big thanks to my husband alex for editing and helping me with that!).  in early october, i finally submitted it.  and i prayed multiple times specifically that i would win third place (the other prizes were good too, but i was really hoping for third because of the filter).

i was so excited after i sent it in!  my piece was high-quality and i couldn't wait to see it post.  i checked the blog every day.  and every day, i saw somebody else's article.  after about a month of checking, i gave up hope.  alex told me not to feel bad because they probably get lots of entries.  but i have read many of the entries and know that most of them are on redundant topics, poorly written or shorter than the minimum requirement.  and if those get published, why not mine?  i was bummed, but gave up hope and started to think about another topic i might have enough expertise to write about.

a few nights ago, alex and i were spending time together after a long hard week.  i was looking over his shoulder as he was reading some blogs on the computer that he subscribes to.  at the same time, we noticed that someone had written a letter to the aforementioned blog about sourdough bread baking.  "what?!" i said.  "they will post that person's random letter but not my well researched, lengthy article?!" i was incredulous.

but only for a few seconds.  because after looking further down, we realized that the letter was in response to an article posted earlier that week about sourdough bread baking.  written by none other than "sarah in california"!

woo hoo!  we were so excited!  but it didn't stop there... we also realized the writing contest had ended the day after the article was posted.  searching a little further, we found the post with the contest winners.

looking at first and second place i didn't see my article, but two other really good ones.  i was bummed, thinking that sourdough isn't cool enough to quite make the cut for that blog.

but before my eyes found the third prize winner, alex yelled out, "you won! you got third!"

i was really, really excited and happy at that moment.  its hard to describe my feelings.  it was a mixture of excitement to finally get the long coveted water filter, with happiness that my hard work paid off and writing was deemed worthy of a prize, with an over arching sense of gratefulness to God for giving me the ability to write the article as well as answering the prayer so specifically with the exact prize that i was hoping for.

soli deo gloria. (to God *alone* be the glory)

oh, and if you haven't read it yet, i recommend my (prize-winning!) article on sourdough bread baking over at survival blog.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

how we will be celebrating advent this year

each of the past two decembers, alex has preached a sermon about advent.  each of these sermons has been on the topic of waiting (here is the one from two years ago if you want to listen).

i didn't learn this until the past few years, but waiting is one of the major themes of advent.  the hopeful expectation of what is to come, the fulfillment of God's promise.

as americans who can order a meal and have it ready in a few minutes at McDonald's, or look up a vast amount of information at a click of a button on the internet (and these days google doesn't even make you click before pulling up suggestions!), we aren't good at waiting.  but the bible sees it as an important discipline to wait upon the Lord, and even makes good promises for those who wait.  one example of many is "the Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him" (lamentations 3:25).

God has seen it fit that this advent, we will be waiting.

you see, yesterday was a court hearing about baby girl's future.  all signs were pointing to her being reunited with her mother (which is something we support and see as a good thing, by the way).  but because of a technicality, that was not the judge's decision (although if she keeps doing well, that will be the ruling at the next hearing in february).

now, we love baby girl.  i love watching esther play with her (and by play i mean stick her fingers in baby's mouth, set large toys on her head, play drums on her tummy, etc).  we have a good relationship with baby girl's mom and have given her a bible, and had opportunities to speak to her about spiritual things on many occasions.  i am happy to know that we have given baby girl the best start to a healthy life as possible, as she is getting breast milk and not formula.

but baby girl is not our baby girl.  and we want a child who will be adopted into our family.  and the longer baby girl is with us, the longer we wait to see who that child might be.  the longer until we can hold him or her in our arms.

until then, i will be praying for that child.  and hoping.  and most importantly, waiting.  and by God's grace waiting well.

so as we commemorate the hopeful expectation of jesus for all the centuries until he came the first time, and even think about our hopeful expectation of his second return, we will also be expectantly hoping for and waiting for our next child.